'Animal Kingdom' Season 4, Episode 1 "Janine": Past is Prologue in Strong Opener [SPOILER REVIEW]

Finally! Wait no more, friends! TNT's Animal Kingdom is back with fourth-season premiere "Janine"… and it comes right out of the gate swinging in ways you may not have seen coming.

Now before we go any further, let me just say… I was right!

Astute readers may remember that upon hearing casting news, I speculated that we were going to be dipping into Smurf's past for more storylines, and we definitely were – and it did not disappoint.

Before we move forward, two things to keep in mind…

animal kingdom

…and did we mention we were right?

Animal Kingdom season 4, episode 1 "Janine": In the season four premiere, the Codys pull off a risky robbery that results in a big realization for Craig (Ben Robson). The relationship between Smurf (Ellen Barkin) and Pope (Shawn Hatosy) remains rocky even as Pope tries out a new outlet for his anger. Deran (Jake Weary) involves Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) in the family business despite warnings from Craig, as J (Finn Cole) tests the waters of his new identity outside the Cody empire. A new criminal crew is introduced with a surprising connection to the Codys.

The premiere opens with an epic bank heist that we don't realize is actually set in the 1970's until later on. The groovy heist is pulled off by The Wicked Witch of the West, Fidel Castro, Charlie Chaplin, and George Washington… with Abraham Lincoln as their getaway driver. Somehow, that makes sense.

Okay, it's not the actual historical figures robbing the bank – it's actually Janine under the Chaplin mask. Yes, our Janine. We learn that Janine (Leila George) joined up with this crew because her boyfriend Jake (Jon Beavers) brought her aboard (not that the rest of the crew is stoked about having a girlfriend tag along).

Turns out what we just witnessed was baby's first bank heist!

animal kingdom

Now Let's Go Back to the Future…

Pope (Shawn Hatosy) has gone full "Edward Norton" and has Smurf (Ellen Barkin) betting on him in an underground fight club-MMA cage fight match-two buff grown men beating the shite out of each other. I guess this is her way of having him cope with his mental instability?

Questionable parenting at best… and to no one's surprise, Pope is still not okay.

Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) and Deran (Jake Weary) are still in an adorable domestic relationship, with Deran running the bar and Adrian gallivanting all over the world to surf in competitions. Sounds pretty good, right?

Did we mention he's throwing the competitions and was picked up as a drug mule and is currently being hella pressured by a DEA agent asshole to give up the supplier who stuffed 5 kilos of coke in his board (which we saw at the end of last season)? A really important point to keep in mind…

Animal Kingdom - "Janine" - season 4, episode 1

J (Finn Cole) graduated high school and is now taking college courses, still maintaining his nerd status between the family business and owning/operating his new bowling alley – while getting totally played by Mia (Sohvi Rodriguez). To add another layer to what we saw at the end of last season, her ex-boyfriend Tupi (Eddie Ramos) is back in the fray and leaning hard on Mia to totally betray J.

Craig is having tenant issues – maybe being a landlord isn't the best career path for sweet meathead surfer boy Craig. Of course, I'm also on board with any career path for him that involves as much shirtless screen time as possible, but I digress. Speaking of shirtless Craig… the morning of their big heist, familiar lady friend Frankie (Dichen Lachman) walks into his house (Baz's old house) with a new job – and a warning that working for Smurf is going to end badly.

And with that, our boys are back to hitting banks! J (aided by his annoying secret girlfriend Mia) serves as the diversion / leverage, Adrian is the alibi for Deran (in the cutest way possible) while Deran serves as lookout as Craig and Pope hit the vault and make bank…

…except for the part where Pope has a death wish and derails their slick motorcycle getaway by pulling a handgun on an oncoming cop car.

Smooth one, buddy. No way that could ever end poorly!

The Past is Prologue

Back in the past, we end on Janine (future Smurf) having made up her mind that she will be running this crew one day – and will be the best damn bank robber that 1970's Southern California has ever seen. Fin.

Such an artful way to end an episode, and a great way to set up the season. Of course, I love the swingin' 70s scenes more than anything – they are adding levels of understanding about the previous seasons and the cast that viewers had been lacking up to this point. I'm sure the flashbacks will continue (because they're too good to not to keep going), and I hope they continue to show us how Janine became Smurf – and how things got to be so complicated for the family.

What were your thoughts? Was the premiere worth the wait? What do you think the season has in store for Smurf and all of her boys? Is Frankie a threat? And more importantly, will poor sweet Adrian torpedo his surf career and spend 25 years in the pokey for drug smuggling?

TNT's Animal Kingdom airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. – and here's a look at next week's episode "Angela":

Animal Kingdom season 4, episode 2 "Angela": J (Finn Cole) reconsiders his relationship with Smurf (Ellen Barkin) after he gets bad news about Morgan's death. Frankie (Dichen Lachman) lures Craig (Ben Robson) with the promise of another big score. The arrival of an old family friend surprises Pope (Shawn Hatosy); and Deran (Jake Weary) questions if Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) is really ready to accept him for who he is. Directed by John Wells and written by Daniele Nathanson.

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Eden ArnoldAbout Eden Arnold

Having spent far too much time in front of the television growing up, Eden has lots of opinions about television (as well as movies and everything else). She puts this to good use along with her journalism degree and writing experience with by-lines over the years in many print publications, books, and online media outlets. You can find her on Twitter at @Edenhasopinions
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